DeWine asks CDC to send medical experts to East Palestine immediately

Gov. Mike DeWine sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday asking the agency to send medical experts to East Palestine immediately.

“I respectfully request that the CDC immediately send to the crash site expert medical assistance, including doctors and professionals who can evaluate and counsel members of the community who have questions and/or experience symptoms,” the letter read.

Among the health experts the governor sought were physicians and behavioral health specialists.

“Some community members have already seen physicians in the area but remain concerned about their condition and possible health effects — both short- and long-term,” the letter continued. “I am requesting all appropriate resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC , including federal medical emergency response teams, for deployment to Ohio as soon as possible.”

Residents struggling with the stress related to the Norfolk Southern train derailment are encouraged to call the Ohio Careline at 1-800-720-9616 to talk to a trained specialist for free.

On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, derailed in East Palestine in northeast Ohio. A controlled release of vinyl chloride took place last week due to concerns about a potential explosion. The cars were then set on fire.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency created a plan to prevent contaminants that have not been removed from the crash site from washing into local waterways ahead of rain Thursday, according to the governor’s office.

Sulphur Run was dammed west and east of the crash site, resulting in an empty creek bed in the area of the derailment. Teams are pumping clean creek water from the eastern dam and releasing them back into Sulphur Run at the western dam.

Any contaminated rainwater runoff will run into the dry creek bed and will be removed and remediated, according to DeWine’s office.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator was scheduled to arrive in East Palestine Thursday to assess the ongoing response and meet with local, state and federal officials.

“Test results from the village’s municipal well sampling showed no water quality concerns,” read the update from the EPA.

The Ohio EPA recommended anyone who gets drinking water from private water well beds to schedule an appointment for water well testing.

A chemical plume of butyl acrylate in the Ohio River is near Gallipolis and is expected to be near Huntington, West Virginia, sometime tomorrow, according to the governor’s office.

Test results indicate the chemical is below three parts per billion, which is below the 560 parts per billion the CDC considers hazardous.

No vinyl chloride has been detected in the river, according to the press release.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission and other agencies along the Ohio River are sampling the water at different locations and closing drinking water intakes ahead of the plume to prevent butyl acrylate from entering drinking water.

Aeration points have also bee added to remove the chemical from the water, according to the governor’s office.

During a press conference earlier this week, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz said the derailment and release of toxic chemicals led to the deaths of 3,500 fish of 12 difference species in the first few days.

The majority of fish appear to be minnows, darters and sculpin, according to the press release issued Thursday. Most the of deaths are believed to have been from the immediate release of contaminants into the water before the mitigation efforts. ODNR has not found any evidence of continued risks to aquatic life but will continue to monitor the waters.

As of Thursday, ODNR has not received any additional reports of deceased wildlife.

There is no information indicating pets are not safe outside. However, anyone who thinks their pet got sick due to the derailment should contact their local veterinarian.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture is testing tissue samples to try to determine a cause of death for a 6-week-old beef calf that died on Saturday approximately two miles from East Palestine.

ODA continued to report food supply is safe and the risk to livestock is low.

DeWine’s office noted also residents may have seen emissions near the derailment on Wednesday.

“The railroad was using steam to heat a damaged railcar containing paraffin wax,” read a statement. “The melted wax was transported into another tank without being exposed to the air.”

The U.S. EPA is continuing to monitor air purity in the East Palestine area. The latest monitoring showed no presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the crash, according to the governor’s office.

“Similarly, the U.S. EPA reports that it is not detecting any airborne phosgene or mineral acids, which were chemicals of concern directly related to the controlled burn process,” read a press release. “Because these substances have not been detected, and because emissions from the controlled release have dissipated, the U.S. EPA has stopped air monitoring for these two specific contaminants.”

Some residents may notice a smell near the derailment. Some of the contaminants released have a low odor threshold, meaning they can be smelled at levels lower than what is considered hazardous, according to DeWine’s office.

As of Thursday, The U.S. EPA and other contractors have tested air inside 474 homes for VOCs. Approximately 75 homes showed elevated levels of VOCs, but additional testing showed contaminants from the derailment were not present.

Approximately 3,150 cubic yards of contaminated soil have been removed from the crash site and were stored for proper disposal. The remaining soil is being covered with mulch to absorb any seepage and chemicals.

The mulch will then be stored for proper disposal as well.

Crews have removed 942,000 gallons of contaminants and contaminated liquid from the derailment and another 110,000 gallons of contaminants are expected to be removed in the next day, according to a press release.

Reports from staff writers Jen Balduf and London Bishop contributed to this report.

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